The Truth About Newsweek And The Future Of Magazines

Much has been written about Newsweek and the decision to move to a digital only, format.  Some of it has been positive, but most of it negative.  Stephen G. Smith, Editor of the Washington Examiner and former Editor at Time, US News and World Report and Newsweek, explained it this way, “The tempo of the news and the Web have completely overtaken the news magazines”.  There is one source that’s predicting Newsweek Global’s demise in less than one year.  I don’t agree if it’s carried out in the correct fashion.  In fact, Newsweek Global has an opportunity to lead the way.  Digital doesn’t have to replace print but the alternative should be available.  Subscriptions didn’t kill the Newsstand, neither will digital?  Do you know why advertising in digital magazines hasn’t done better, because of the half-hearted attempt at digitizing magazines.  If the excitement was there, so too would the advertisers.  Although improving, most digital magazines, have not been very user-friendly or enjoyable to navigate.  On-line magazines have simply been the print versions, instead of producing an entertainment experience.  In terms of all of the other print magazine categories, we’ve heard many reasons for the demise, the recession, digital, young people don’t read and a number of others.  What’s the truth?  Quite simply, all of the above.  However, there is one main reason for the decline of print and it can be described in one simple word, TIME.  And I don’t mean the magazine.  The logic of television replacing radio and movies no longer applies.  Even with those three mediums, there were only three.  Add a Victrola or stereo and there was a fourth.  But no one did all of those things at the same time.  If your parents could afford it, you went to the movies on the weekend.  If you had a TV there were only eight to ten channels.  There were technological limitations.  Look at the choices in technology today; laptops, Kindle e-reader and Fire, iPad, mini iPad on its way, Blackberry, iPhone and Galaxy S-3 Android based phones.  There are many others but the point has been made.  The sellout on-line, of the new Microsoft Surface before it’s available in stores, demonstrates just how desperate people are for the latest technology.  For lack of a better term, technology is “Cool”.  Magazines aren’t, in their current format.  They are exactly the same as they’ve always been.  Add to that, millions of websites and one can easily become lost in cyber-space.  Instead of publishers throwing up their hands, they need to discover ways to compete.  The problem is, many of the publishers are old school and can’t see the future, because they’re not part of the future.  That’s just a cold, hard fact.  A couple of years ago Esquire tested a really neat cover and it brought some excitement to the market.  But unfortunately, nothing followed.  If magazines and newspapers are to survive, publishers need to compete with 2012 technology, not 1950’s or even 1970’s.  There must be a complete transformation of the industry.  The argument that young people don’t read is nonsense.  Even young people will be drawn to magazines if publishers provide reasons for them to go there.  A 3-D Twilight pictorial that’s interactive with the on-line version, would be an example.  New and exciting “NOW”, is what’s required.  There must be a complete overhaul in the thinking that “this is the way we’ve always done things”.  The magazine of the future must be able to adapt, excite and change quickly.  If magazines don’t transition to this new world and successfully compete for TIME, they will indeed become obsolete.

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